The Madison Avenue Initiative

Millions could be at stake as minority media outlets face an ongoing "blackout" from national advertisers

she had unsuccessfully tried to alert industry executives to the memo, and turned to him out of frustration. The memo provided hard evidence that there was a concerted effort to portray minority radio audiences as undesirable consumers. There was also an effort to discourage media buys at minority-formatted stations. According to the Katz memo, minorities could be adequately reached through other general market outlets, thus reducing the need to place ads with minority-targeted radio stations. Sharpton shared the memo and his concerns about it with the New York Daily News. A story appeared on Page 4 of the newspaper the next day and became a national news story the day after that.

After the story about Katz broke, Sharpton began setting in motion an elaborate set of checks and balances designed to get advertisers and advertising agencies to the negotiating table. He met with black and Latino radio station, newspaper and magazine owners to help form a nationwide coalition. Sharpton says that after meeting with radio station owners, he found, "We had stations that were No. 1 or No. 2 in a market, but No. 10 or No. 11 in revenue." Now, with the coalition more than 300 stations strong, he boasts they basically have their own media network, so if negotiating doesn’t work with some corporations, "I can get a message across the country about an advertiser in 24 hours that can hurt their bottom line." He will also place press releases in minority print media. And he points out that there is an added benefit for minority media owners: "They don’t have to do the fighting," says Sharpton. "I’m going to do the fighting so companies can’t come back and say, ‘I’m going to penalize you for boycotting me.’ They’re just covering a story."

As he was putting together the coalition of minority media, Sharpton also reached out to the advertising industry and government officials. He planned the Invitational Summit on Multicultural Markets and Media in January and also met with AAF President and CEO Wally Snyder, AAAA President and CEO O. Burtch Drake and Association of National Advertisers President and CEO John Sarsen, convincing them to co-sponsor the event. "By getting the industry associations to co-sponsor with me, the corporate leaders couldn’t say this is not a credible issue and we’re not a credible group, because they’re all members of these organizations," says Sharpton. "How do you not meet with me when your asso-ciation heads are saying, ‘Yes, we’ve got to deal with this and Sharpton is the guy to deal with?’"

Sharpton also drew on his long time relationship with National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators President Efrain Gonzalez Jr., asking him to be a co-sponsor of the summit. And U.S. Reps. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and Robert Menedez have vowed to take the issue to Congress in ways they feel are appropriate. "We intend to look at federal procurement as well as work with the business community to see that American

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